How important are the Iowa caucuses?

The Iowa caucuses don't always predict who becomes the president...

Since the 1970s, the Iowa Caucuses have been the first major milestone in U.S. presidential elections. But it doesn't always predict who becomes president

In 1972, Maine Senator Edmund Muskie narrowly won the Iowa Caucuses — but not the Democratic nomination.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter got the most votes of any Democratic candidate in Iowa but 37% of Iowans actually voted as “uncommitted.”

In 1980, incumbent President Carter handily won the Iowa Caucuses — then lost the office to Ronald Regan. That year on the Republican side, George H.W. Bush won in Iowa.

In 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale took the Iowa Caucuses, then the party’s nomination — but ultimately, he didn't defeat Reagan, the incumbent president. In 1988, Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Dick Gephardt won their respective caucuses. Neither went on to win their party’s nomination.

In 1992, Sen. Tom Harkin won in his home state of Iowa but did not become the nominee. Bob Dole won the 1996 Iowa Caucuses and the Republican Party’s nomination. But he eventually lost to incumbent president Bill Clinton.

In 2000, Al Gore and George W. Bush both won the Iowa caucuses and their party’s nomination.

In 2004, John Kerry won in Iowa, but went on to lose to President George W. Bush.

In 2008, a victory in Iowa led Barrack Obama all the way to the presidency.

In 2012, Rick Santorum won the Iowa Caucuses — but his party’s nomination eluded him.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Iowa and the Democratic nomination while Sen. Ted Cruz won on the Republican side. Despite a late challenge, Hillary Clinton was able to defeat Bernie Sanders in the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus by the closest margin in the history of the contest: 49.8% to 49.6% (Clinton collected 700.47 state delegate equivalents to Sanders' 696.92, a difference of one quarter of a percentage point). But it was Donald Trump who went on to become president.